Ministry of Labour, Social, Family Affairs and Integration

Self-Employment Business Start-Up

In Germany, more and more business founders have a migration background. In this section you will find in brief what you should pay attention to when setting up your company.

Business Start-Up - Hamburg Welcome Portal

Good Reasons for Hamburg

Some 250,000 people from 185 different nations live and work currently between the Alster and the Elbe. Economic potential and a high quality of life make Hamburg one of Europe’s most dynamic economic areas. Among others, locational advantages are based on Hamburg’s good transport links on the Elbe, with the Port of Hamburg providing access to the North and Baltic Seas – and therefore all countries of the world.

Founders of new businesses are given particular support in Hamburg and can benefit from various competent advisory services when implementing their idea. That’s why nearly 10,000 new companies are founded in and around Hamburg every year.

Residence Permit

Citizens from European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) states as well as from Switzerland enjoy unrestricted freedom of movement in Germany and the same rights as Germans. They do not require any residence permit.

Non-EU citizens and non-EEA citizens need a special residence permit which entitles to do business in Hamburg.

Social Insurance

The social insurance system guarantees the social security of our society and consists of health insurance, long-term care insurance, accident insurance, unemployment insurance and pension insurance. This social insurance system, however, is primarily designed for employees. Business and shop owners are themselves responsible for their social security. For them, only health insurance and long-term care insurance are mandatory.

Self-employed persons may choose either a statutory health insurance company or a private insurance provider. The contribution rates for statutory health and long-term care insurance are defined by law. On top, there is a small additional contribution every statutory insurance company can determine individually. In case you opt for private health insurance, the amount of contributions depends on the scope of services you have chosen as well as on your age and your state of health at the time the contract is concluded.

Additionally, it is recommended to insure oneself against other entrepreneurial risks (e.g. inability to work caused by an illness or accident) as well as to ensure adequate pension provision.

Liberal Profession (Freelancer) or Commercial Activity

In German tax and trade law, a distinction is made between commercial and freelance activities. Freelancers do not have to register a trade and pay no trade tax. In general, freelancers carry out their services on their own responsibility, independently and on the basis of special professional qualifications or creative talent in the interest of the clients and the public good. Whether it is a commercial or a freelance activity, must be clarified on the basis of each individual case, since various laws are affected and the demarcation cannot be answered in general terms. More information on the demarcation between freelance occupations and a commercial enterprise can be found on the business start-up portal of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. Ultimately, the responsible Tax Office decides whether your activity is classed as a liberal profession or a commercial activity.

Registrations, Approvals and Permissions

Depending on the nature of your planned activity, various permissions are required to start your self-employment. Here are some examples that give you a first orientation and are not complete or conclusive:

  • Businesspeople must register their business at the trade office (“Gewerbeanmeldung”).
  • Any self-employment must be registered with your local tax office. When you register your business as a trade, the tax office will be informed automatically.
  • You are obliged to register with a employers'  liability insurance association (‘Berufsgenossenschaft’). The professional associations in Germany are accident insurance institutions for companies and their employees. The task of the professional association is to prevent accidents at work, occupational diseases and work-related health hazards.
  • Anyone who wants to become self-employed in craft must register with the Chamber of Crafts in Hamburg.
  • Depending on the nature and scope of your commercial activity, your business must be entered in the commercial register. The commercial register is a publicly accessible directory and provides key information about a company and is administered by the Chamber of Commerce Hamburg.
  • Certain occupational groups have to register at professional chambers. This applies, for example, to architects, tax consultants and lawyers.
  • If you want to lay out your goods on the street, you need a special permit from the responsible district office.
  • Some businesses may not be carried out without permission (e.g. banking or insurance intermediaries).

To inform yourself about the necessary formalities, you can use the online procedure finder of the Point of Single Contact Hamburg. It is possible to handle the entire process electronically by the Point of Single Contact.

You can call them or write an e-mail as well as reach them by mail under the following address:

Point of Single Contact in Hamburg
Phone: +49 (0)40 5332 6660-0
Fax: +49 (0)40 5332 6660-9
PO Box: 11 14 49, 20414 Hamburg

If you prefer a face-to-face meeting visit them during the opening hours:

Mon - Thurs: 8 am - 4:30 pm, Fr.: 10am - 3 pm

Office of the Chamber of Commerce Hamburg
Office of the Chamber of Commerce Hamburg
Adolphsplatz 1, 20457 Hamburg
Holstenwall 12, 20355 Hamburg

Funding Programmes

In certain circumstances your business can be funded by the government. Feel free to contact the IFB Business Advice Centre to get information about funding queries. It advises on funding offers from the Senate of Hamburg, the German federal government and the EU.

More Information

There are numerous offers of support for people interested in setting up a business in Hamburg. For more information please continue with the article "Contacts & Information Centers".